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Whither the retention schedule in the era of big data and open data?

John McDonald (Information Management Consulting and Education, Ottawa, Canada, and)
Valerie Léveillé (School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 15 July 2014




This article, which is one of the products of an international collaborative research initiative called iTrust, aims to explore these questions and offer suggestions concerning how the issues they raise can be addressed.


The article describes the results of the first stage in a multi-stage research project leading to methods for developing retention and disposition specifications and formal schedules for open data and big data initiatives. A fictitious organization is used to describe the characteristics of open data and big data initiatives, the gap between current approaches to setting retention and disposition specifications and schedules and what is required and how that gap can be closed. The landscape described as a result of this stage in the research will be tested in case studies established in the second stage of the project.


The argument is made that the business processes supporting open data and big data initiatives could serve as the basis for developing enhanced standards and procedures that are relevant to the characteristics of these two kinds of initiatives. The point is also made, however, that addressing the retention and disposition issues requires knowledge and leadership, both of which are in short supply in many organizations. The characteristics, the issues and the approaches will be tested through case studies and consultations with those involved with managing and administering big data and open data initiatives.


There is very little, if any, current literature that addresses the impact of big data and open data on the development and application of retention schedules. The outcome of the research will benefit those who are seeking to establish processes leading to formally approved retention and disposition specifications, as well as an instrument – the approved retention and disposal schedule – designed to ensure the ongoing integrity of the records and data associated with big data and open data initiatives.



This project was realized through the support of the SSHRC-funded InterPARES Trust project based at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) at the University of British Columbia. The authors are grateful for the comments and editorial suggestions made by the InterPARES Trust’s Project Director Dr Luciana Duranti, the ITrust project coordinator; Corrine Rogers; and Hans Hofman of the National Archives of The Netherlands (retired).


McDonald, J. and Léveillé, V. (2014), "Whither the retention schedule in the era of big data and open data?", Records Management Journal, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 99-121.



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